Review by Gregory S. Burkart
Thanks to a sizable boost in popularity from the recent DVD release from Shock-O-Rama, Greg Lamberson's ultra-low-budget NYC lensed shocker Slime City has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance among fans of '80s splatter, and I think it deserves the attention it's getting lately. If you groove on ooze, or just love that grungy 42nd-Street vibe this flick shares with gore classics like Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case or Troma's Toxic Avenger, you may be surprised you haven't heard about this one since its debut... but no matter, it's back now, twenty years later, for your pus-dripping pleasure. Lamberson and company are celebrating this anniversary in two ways: first, with a special screening at Wisconsin's Beloit International Film Festival, and second, with the release of the film's score on a newly-remastered CD.
One of the most overlooked aspects of indie horror filmmaking is the music. Most of these DIY auteurs finance their epics by donating plasma, maxing out credit cards and selling air conditioners for their creepy Uncle Hugh, so very little scratch is left over to hire professional musicians to supply the all-important score cues and source tunes. In the end, the director either enlists his roommate's brother's lame garage band to cut a few tracks in exchange for a case of Jagermeister, or ends up taking on the duties himself with a stolen four-track and that wheezing electric organ he got in a yard sale for three bucks. That's why it's refreshing to hear a score from a real musician with dedication to the project, who works with simple means to create an eccentric, inventive and quite cool collection of motifs.
I didn't really know the work of composer Robert Tomaro (other than his name is only one letter removed from ?Tomato,? as my spell-checker kept suggesting before I switched the damn thing off), but his work here reveals a solid, inventive artist who knows how to coax some strangely beautiful arrangements from instruments that otherwise would seem at odds with one another. His music for Slime City is a cornucopia of elements ranging from cartoonish excess to unsettling horror, crashing rock 'n' roll themes headlong into nightmare circus marches, then weaving a light jazz melody into a creepy electronic drone straight out of a '50s sci-fi flick. Tomaro himself describes this car-crash of disparate elements as ?what you might get if you locked Igor Stravinsky, Johnny Rotten and Bernard Herrmann in a hotel room and didn't let them out until they wrote something together.? In real life this would have undoubtedly resulted in hundreds of deaths, but it's a good analogy nonetheless.
Complex as its thematic influences may be however, a ?lo-fi? movie requires a down-and-dirty musical approach, and it is here where Tomaro hits the mark perfectly, blending both old and new synthesizer technology with classical, jazz and rock instruments into a heady concoction that seems to slither and creep towards impending doom, just like the film's hapless, goo-spurting protagonist. The simple, stripped-down style of these brief but potent tracks is exactly what the film calls for, as a more elaborate production would distract from the... well, slimy feeling that infuses every frame of the film.
Tomaro assigns specific instrumental groups to different motifs: a dissonant brass & woodwind ensemble creates a dreamlike feeling of uncertainty; funky rolling bass lines beneath synth strings and lofty guitar solos create a sexy vibe (my favorite cut, ?Gothic Temptress,? sounds like a lost Goblin track from the same period); we get a tasty dollop of John Carpenter-style sequenced lines and Roland TR-808 drum machine patterns; and some great Batcave-era Gothic bass riffs just to remind us we're dealing with the '80s here. And you can't fault the sincerity of any cue labeled simply, ?Gross-Out Climax.? This could also be a really righteous name for a band, so if you rush out to trademark it, just remember you heard it here first.
As a bonus, the final track, appropriately named ?Slime City,? is a new number from Milwaukee-based Holy Mary Motor Club, and it's a perfect fit, with a slight Violent Femmes feel and some funny references to the film. Like the rest of the score, it's short, simple, sleazy fun... and this description fits the movie as well. As a musical whole, Slime City is a keeper for fans of old-school electronic soundscapes, '80s gloom rock, and pure avant-garde musical strangeness.
Following its debut at the aforementioned film festival, this CD will subsequently be available through Lamberson's website, SlimeGuy.com, and will no doubt be making the rounds at horror and comic conventions throughout the year. Pick up a copy (you can get the DVD there too) for a quick musical trip back to the gory days of '80s cheese 'n' sleaze cinema ? and that's a good thing, by the way.